Unplug and connect for Family Day

Families are being encouraged to spend an hour away from their screens Feb. 11 during the first Family Day.

Success by 6 is encouraging local families to “Unplug and Connect” during the very first Family Day in B.C.

Families and caregivers are being encouraged to step away from computer and television screens and away from telephones and read, play, talk, listen or sing with young children and family members for one hour on Monday, Feb. 11.

Success by 6’s Unplug and Connect campaign was born out of the unplug messages developed locally by Shelley Anderson, the central Vancouver Island co-ordinator for Success by 6, and the Ladysmith Early Years Partnership and the early years community in Nanaimo.

“Working with a lot of community stakeholders, we came to understand we’re seeing a lot of families who are simply not engaging their youngest children,” said Anderson. “What we were seeing in the community environment was that families were not stepping away from the phone and engaging with their children, and children were on their Nintendo DS and other technological devices.”

Anderson says that as children develop before the age of five, recognizing facial expressions and looking someone in the eyes is critical, and some of that development could get lost if families are always plugged in.

“We thought it would be really wise to encourage families to unplug and connect on our first Family Day,” said Anderson. “We’re suggesting to them to just take one hour away from all screens and be present with their families. We’re not saying technology is bad; we recognize it’s a huge part of our day-to-day lives, but you really need to be mindful and present and need to engage with your children.”

Anderson says the Unplug and Connect campaign developed here is spreading all through Vancouver Island and into the Kootenays and the Okanagan, and she’s hoping it will build momentum for future years.

Ladysmith Mayor Rob Hutchins has proclaimed Monday, Feb. 11 as “Family Day — Unplug and Connect” in Ladysmith, to promote the importance of engaging families to disconnect from electronic devices and screens and connect with each other, and there are a number of Family Day activities planned in the community.

Ladysmith Family and Friends is hosting a Family Day dance Friday, Feb. 8 from 5-8 p.m. at Aggie Hall.

Ladysmith Parks Recreation and Culture is celebrating Family Day with a special Everyone Welcome Swim Monday, Feb. 11 from noon to 3:30 p.m. at the Frank Jameson Community Centre.

B.C.’s Family Day will take place on the second Monday in February each year. When she announced Family Day, Premier Christy Clark stated that, “Having our own unique day in B.C. creates distinctive opportunities for families and local businesses. British Columbians will be able to enjoy all kinds of local attractions with fewer lineups and less out-of-town traffic.”